Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest increased for the third straight month in May, preliminary government data showed Friday, with President Jair Bolsonaro yet to deliver on his April pledge to increase funding for environmental enforcement.
According to Brazil’s National Space Research Institute, Inpe, deforestation rose 67% in May from the same month last year, with much of the land earmarked for cattle ranches, ranches and logging.
The data shows that deforestation increased by 25% in the first five months of the year compared to a year earlier, with 2,548 square miles destroyed — an area more than three times the size of New York City.
Deforestation peaks during the dry season from May to October, when it is easier for illegal loggers to access the forest.
Bolsonaro pledged at an Earth Day summit in April to double funding for environmental enforcement. The next day, he signed the 2021 federal budget that cut environmental spending.
Environment Minister Ricardo Salles immediately submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Economy to increase environmental spending, but that request went unanswered for more than a month.
Bolsonaro’s office did not immediately respond to a request from Reuters for comment.
The administration of US President Joe Biden has negotiated with Brazil possible funding for efforts to conserve the Amazon. But US officials say they don’t expect immediate action.
“Unfortunately, the Bolsonaro regime has rolled back some of its environmental enforcement,” US climate envoy John Kerry told a Congressional hearing last month. “We’ve had this conversation. They say they are now committed to increasing the budget.
“If we don’t talk to them, you know for sure that forest will disappear.”
Bolsonaro’s strategy to protect the Amazon relied heavily on expensive military deployment that first began in late 2019. But the government withdrew its forces in late April, failing to bring deforestation back to pre-Bolsonaro levels.
Environmental agencies like Ibama are once again taking the lead in protecting the forest, but the government has not increased their funding or staffing.
Marcio Astrini, head of the environmental advocacy group Climate Observatory, said increasing deforestation is proof that Bolsonaro’s recent pledges to protect the Amazon should not be taken seriously.
“It seems to be more empty talk,” Astrini said.